The Lead

U.S. Supreme Court rejects House GOP boss’ claim that Pa. legislative districts are racially gerrymandered

By: - October 31, 2022 1:34 pm

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, speaks at a February 2021 press conference.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to Pennsylvania’s 2021 legislative redistricting map that said its makers engaged in racial gerrymandering. 

Filed on behalf of House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, the petition for appeal argued the Legislative Redistricting Commission used race as the predominant factor in creating 14 districts where it positioned voters to create majority-minority districts.

It asked the court to decide whether the districts drawn for “transparently racial reasons,” beyond what is required by the Voting Rights Act, are constitutional merely because the commission also satisfied traditional redistricting principles.

The Supreme Court included the case on a list of petitions for certiorari that were denied Monday. The high court agrees to hear only a small number of the cases that come before it.

“Obviously we are disappointed and continue to believe these maps improperly dilute the power of minority voters,” Jason Gottesman, a spokesperson for Benninghoff said.

The Pennsylvania Supreme unanimously approved the map in March after months of controversy.

In particular, the new state House map significantly redrew the lines around such eastern Pennsylvania cities as Lancaster, Harrisburg, Reading, and Allentown.

Commission Chairperson Mark Nordenberg said the redraw was needed to match the shift of state population from west to east, to undo decades of gerrymandering, and expand minority communities’ voice in the General Assembly.

At the same time, the new plan is more compact and reduces the number of county and municipal splits compared to the current map, drawn by a Republican-friendly commission in 2012.

Benninghoff was among the most critical of the new map as a partisan and racial gerrymander. Benninghoff received backing from two Latino advocacy groups that argued the redrawing of lines to create additional districts in predominantly Latino cities such as Allentown and Reading split up communities and diluted Latinos’ votes.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.